Some enterprising students and teachers at Windsor Park Collegiate are in the midst of a project that involves hovercraft and A&E’s reality program, Duck Dynasty.
Each year, WPC enters the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters annual Discovery Program hovercraft competition, in which they design and build a hovercraft that competes against similar craft from other schools in the province. The school has finished first or second in four of the six years it’s competed
One of the requirements of the project is to incorporate a practical application of the craft. One year it tested algae content in Lake Winnipeg; another year it located cars that fell through ice on lakes.
This year the team is creating a duck-like robotic device, the "Quackin," that can manoeuvre through marshlands and reeds to support hunters and birdwatchers.
And yes, the project is inspired by Duck Dynasty, the popular TV show which showcases eccentric entrepreneurs running a duck-call fabrication business. The students are attempting to contact the reality show, hoping to earn an endorsement.
Cabela’s Canada has taken more than a passing interest in the project. Peter Tully, retail marketing manager for Cabela’s, organized a seminar for the students with Rick Shpiruk, a waterfowl expert with the company. He showcased the current line of duck decoys and robotic ducks and shared insights about whether the hovercraft could find a place in this niche market.
Shpiruk was impressed with the innovative and problem-solving attitude of the students. He emphasized the importance of making the craft as realistic as possible.
"This project will come down to the design — will it truly resemble a duck?"
He also reminded the team that the natural habitat will long outlive their cell phones and that connecting with the environment is good for the soul.
Cabela’s has donated a floating mallard decoy the team will use to build its first prototype.
Jean-Luc Suszko, a teacher on the project and an avid outdoorsman, believes that "hunting, fishing and camping are fun, healthy activities for youth," and that schools need more activities to connect students to the natural habitat.
One of the students, Karissa Laroche, agrees. She regularly hunts with her father and grandfather and enjoys their family time in the wild. She was especially excited when the team choose a Duck Dynasty vibe.
Another student, Chelsea Shelvey, participates because she liked the teamwork and project-based nature of the activity.
"I think all courses should have hands-on activities like this one."
This high school project has a 21st century employability flavour to it. There’s lots of problem solving, designing, creating, presenting and collaborating. There is a business plan to write and a final presentation to deliver in March to a panel of engineers.
The students intend to sway the judges by dressing up in Duck Dynasty garb.
Picture long beards, camouflage and "happay, happay, happay" faces.
You can support this fascinating project by completing an online survey about hunting interests and habits at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3X9K8BV.
Adriano Magnifico is a community correspondent for St. Boniface. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org